Getting to the Client.

The headline for this week's post is one of those sneaky little bits of irony. A lot of us spend a lot of time and effort "getting to the client." But when we do, we don't end up "getting to the client." Let me explain.

Many digital media and tech sellers work diligently to close transactional deals with buyers. We respond to their RFPs, try to decipher conflicting signals and contradictory requests, and - to the best of our ability - bring them proactive ideas and opportunities. But when these efforts predictably collapse in despair and recrimination, our boss inevitably says "we've got to get to the client!" And he's right. Well...half right.

We take the cue and pursue the client meeting. But, fatally, we don't bother to upscale the agenda. We bring the client the exact same buying decision that got turned down or ignored at the agency. The client either ignores our outreach, sends us back to the agency or politely listens to our pitch and then does...nothing. Without realizing it, we brought this customer an issue or opportunity that was below their pay-grade. We've treated them like the appeals court...asking them to overturn the verdict that we lost in the lower court. To the client, this is no opportunity: if they change the outcome and put you on the plan, they've created a whole new set of problems - an alienated agency, political risk and potentially a shit-storm of POVs and meetings that they really don't need.

Don't just get to the client: get to the client. Make sure that your client-side agenda is squarely focused on business issues and marketing opportunities. Don't help them spend an existing budget; help them justify a new one. Don't show them how you'll reach their current customer; introduce them to the one they haven't yet met. Work with the media planning team to fill existing orders: help the client decide what to order next.

I've always believed that big decision makers only want to make big decisions. If you're going to knock on the client's door, don't show up with an agenda that's two sizes too small. If you do, she'll send you packing.

And she'll be right to do so. Totally right.